Another week, another missed field goal for placekicker David Akers. It has been a season to forget for the 14-year player out of Louisville. Things have gotten so bad for Akers that head coach Jim Harbaugh is holding tryouts this week during the team's first-round bye.
Two of San Francisco's top choices, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, are veterans Billy Cundiff and Justin Medlock.
Cundiff is a 10-year pro that last kicked for the Washington Redskins earlier this season. During his five-game span with the 'Skins, he was an underwhelming 7-of-12 on field goals and was released after the club's fifth game of the season.
Medlock is a second-year player out of UCLA. He was drafted in the fifth round back in 2007 by the Kansas City Chiefs, but has only appeared in 11 games since his rookie season. After starting 7-of-7 for the Panthers this season, he was released after missing consecutive kicks in Weeks 9, 10 and 11.
When tryouts conclude, head coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers will do one of three things:
"We go forward with David," Harbaugh said. "We bring in a new kicker. Or we have two and let them compete for the job. We'll make that decision as we go."
As of right now, it's clear that there is no right, clear-cut decision. I say that because Medlock and Cundiff both lost their jobs prior to inconsistent play. On the season Akers is 29-of-42 on field goals, which calculates out to an even 69 percent.
That number is 11 percent higher than Cundiff's 58 percent field-goal conversion rate and one percent lower than Medlock's 70 percent conversion rate. At this point in the season, I think it would be wise for San Francisco to carry two kickers on its active roster.
They released disgruntled running back Brandon Jacobs today and haven't made an effort to fill his roster spot. Chances are they leave that spot open until after the kicking tryouts have concluded.
As many of you know, Harbaugh is fond and loyal to Akers, so I don't think he is ready to give up on him just quite yet:
We want to make the right decision, Harbaugh said. David's certainly in it. He's done a lot of great things for us. He's made a lot of great kicks, a lot of big kicks. And he knows it, we know it, those kicks in the games -- you've got to make those kicks. There will always be a level of competition around at any position to find who gives you the best chance to win the next game. Knowing the competitor that Dave is, I don't think he'll have a problem with that.
Last year in the playoffs, Akers was an impressive 4-for-4 on field goals. He made three kicks against the Saints and one against the Giants. Including playoff games, he was 48-of-56 on the season—accounting for 166 points and setting an NFL record with 44 field goals during the regular season.
Unfortunately for the 49ers, his late-season magic has faded. In his last 18 attempts, Akers has only managed to put 11 of them through the uprights.
Competition may prove to be the best thing for No. 2, but his better days may already be behind him.
I know kickers at times can be ageless, but 38 years of age is retirement status in the NFL. And even though he has one year left on his contract, there's no question 2012 will be his final season for the 49ers.
A season-long slump like this could end up causing the 49ers a playoff game or a Super Bowl appearance. We all know it has already cost San Francisco a couple of games this season. Both games against St. Louis presented opportunities to win, and both times Akers missed plausible kicks in overtime.
By the end of the week, we should know who will be stepping off seven yards with the game on the line.
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